Standing still for mounting – it sounds so easy doesn’t it?!
Safe mounting is all about preparing your horse well. Your horse needs to have his attention on you, be relaxed about the mounting process, and be easily maneuvered into a good position, for example, standing next to a mounting block. If your training falls down in one of these areas, getting on your horse will be at best frustrating, and at worse, dangerous. Let’s look at these areas individually and give you some pointers that will help.
Gaining your horse’s attention
A horse that is not paying attention to you as you position yourself to get on, or wants to be somewhere else, will walk past, or over, you! If they do walk off, don’t try to stop them, simply stop or move in the opposite direction they are traveling, so your horse ends up in front of you. At this point there are two techniques you can do to correct this;
- Give the hind end a chase (push), so your horse turns quickly around so they end up facing you. You need to have your horse’s head slightly toward you when doing this because horses that are prepared to push past you may also object by kicking out. This method is usually best used with horses that are low energy and disrespectful.
- A sharp pull on the lead rope in the direction you’re traveling. It needs to be a pull that is on and off quickly and done with enough energy that your horse is left facing you. This is done with horses that have excessive energy.
You will need to repeat this until your horse chooses not to walk past you. Remember, if your horse is pushy, then that behavior will usually escalate before their behavior truly changes, so don’t give up!
Being relaxed – desensitising your horse
You need to make sure that your horse is desensitised and is not over-reacting to the movements and noises associated with mounting. Can you pull the stirrups down, tap the saddle, pat on the hindquarters, and jump alongside them without your horse over-reacting? If not, as long as it is not too much of an over-reaction, keep going with the movement until your horse realises that the noise or movement is not going to hurt them and they stop and relax. When they stop and relax you reciprocate by stopping, too. Think of it like, “if you stop, I’ll stop!” Again, you may need to repeat this a few times until your horse is comfortable with these movements. Understanding my Your Horsemanship desensitising techniques will help with this. If you find your horse is very over-reactive, then I would suggest seeing professional help before you get on.
Being relaxed – releasing your horse’s energy
Often, horses come out fresh and may therefore be too impatient to stand still for us to mount. If this is the case, give your horse a controlled lunge to release some of his pent up energy. This energy should be released in a controlled fashion, where possible. If you don’t have enough control on your horse to prevent a kick and a buck, go with it but make them keep working until their movement becomes relaxed and rhythmical.
Getting into position – gaining control of your horse’s hind-end
How can you stop your horse from doing that annoying habit of swinging their hind-end away from you just as you go to get on (particularly when you are using a mounting block!)? You need to teach your horse to step their hind end towards you when asked. Firstly, as we tend to mount from the left, ask your horse to flex their neck away from you via the right rein. You are looking for your horse to move their hind-end in order to straighten their body, so watch their back legs as you do this. Once you get this movement, release the pressure on the right rein. You may need to repeat this movement several times until you feel you can move their hind end using the right rein while staying in the same position you would when mounting. I then teach the horse to move forward by asking with the left rein. Combining these two movements using the left and right reins simultaneously will give a lateral step toward you. This can take some perseverance over a couple of weeks to achieve this, but it means that if your horse moves away from you as you’re mounting, you can reach across their neck pick up the right rein, bend them slightly and they will step back into the correct position for you to mount. It is always worth keeping your horse balanced, by teaching them this movement from the right side of the horse, too!
Now you are ready to get on!
Stand by the horse’s shoulder and bridge your reins, keeping the inside one shorter than the outside one. This is so that if your horse decides to move off, you can rotate your wrist and bend his head towards you and therefore disengage his power from his hindquarters. When going through the motions of getting on it should be a smooth, controlled and confident movement. Once I’m on board I like to bend my horses head one way then the other and give each eye a rub. If they walk off, I hold them in the bend until they stop and accept a stroke over the eye whilst standing still. Doing this every time you get on will stop your horse from anticipating being asked to move forward.